"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, June 13, 2013

On Derechos and Counted Walks

Today was interesting. We had a forecast for storms all day that might possibly turn into a derecho. I had no idea what a derecho is until yesterday. Here's the Wikipedia definition: [a derecho (from the Spanish word meaning "right")] "is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a land-based fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms often delivering flash floods, torrential rains, and hail, potentially rivaling hurricanic and tornadic forces." 

So kind of like a bad-ass hurricane that forms on land and moves uber fast, bringing a posse of tornadoes, and throwing rain and hail at everyone Fun. 

We had our first storm at 9:00 am. I was sitting at the computer checking my e-mail. It was cloudy outside, but the pavement was starting to dry. All of a sudden I felt a change. I look up (there's a window right behind the computer screen) and there is a wall of black behind the tree line. And it was moving fast.

We live on a 3rd floor.

I debated waking up Charles, but something told me to wait. Within the next minute, the darkness had wrapped around us, making it look like it was 8:00 pm. I paced the living room, watching the weather through the sliding glass doors, expecting to see a funnel cloud at any second. Our cats were perfectly calm, so I waited. 

And then the darkness passed and the sky cleared, and I breathed. It always amazes me how our animals sense things so much better than we do.

An hour later, we went to Verizon to switch our phone accounts, and I'm very happy to announce that we are now the proud owners of...iPhones!!! We had very limited dumb phones up until now. It feels like we have the Universe at our fingertips. Wow!

My farrier was scheduled to come to the barn at 2:00 pm, but she was running an hour early (she's awesome that way) so we rushed out of the store so I could drop Charles off at home and run to the barn. By then the sun had come out and the day was beautiful.

Lily had her pedicure, and then I sedated her for her ride. I gave her 3.2 mls of ace this time. I changed her bit back to the mullen mouth pelham with the double reins. I wanted to do some Alta Escuela-type work with her. 

We had another awesome ride. She was sedate enough on 3.2 mls to nap on the cross ties, but she was quite alert while riding, and we practiced transitions within the walk, including an attempt at the counted walk. 

In the counted walk, the horse lifts his withers, tucks his pelvis, walks with a slow cadence, and collects. It is supposed to be the first introduction to true collection, and it is hard. Hard for the horse to do, and hard for the rider: you are supposed to ask the horse to go forward with only the lightest of aids, with the gentlest contact. You are only to use your leg if the horse stops. Here is a video by Manuel Trigo, the Spanish trainer whose clinic I attended last year with Lily, and probably one of the best examples of a true counted walk that you will find on YouTube (the horse periodically gives with his mouth-this is called a jaw flexion, and it is considered a sign of relaxation in French classical dressage, as it involves swallowing and thus loosening of the jaw and throat; it is a desired reaction):

We did a 5 minute walk on a loose rein, then I gathered her up into a frame. I have done this with her a million times in the past, but for the new readers: I use the pelham because it is the closest thing to a Spanish bit and it costs a fraction of the price. It allows for "snaffle" reins (attached to the top rings of the pelham) and "curb" reins (attached to the shanks). The snaffle reins allow you to lift the withers and neck, the curb reins are for bringing the nose back so that the forehead is even with the vertical. What I don't like about long and low with Lily is that it over-develops the bottom of her already naturally inverted neck. The double reins allow for this more technical kind of positioning of her body, and is a good way to start getting her back into shape. 

She responded well, staying within the boundaries set by both sets of reins, and I was able to ride her her 99% off of the snaffle reins (yay!) We alternated 5 minutes walking on a loose rein so she could stretch, with the one condition that she had to really step out and swing her back; 5 minutes in a frame at a more collected but still forward walk (we would work on bend when doing this walk); and then attempted 5 minutes of counted walk. Our "counted walk" is nowhere near as pretty and perfect as the black horse's above, but Lily was much better about these attempts, at least staying in a straight line. She used to get terribly impatient with the exercise and would move sideways and diagonally all over the place, trying to move quicker. Part of the exercise is to stay straight! This was not a problem today.

It was hard to keep her in a frame one-handed with 2 sets of reins and the iPhone in the other hand, trying to take a photo...But yes, that's how loose I had the "curb" reins during the ride.
We had wind gusts blowing through, whipping the trees around, and one of the mares was running around in the big field. Lily pricked her ears at the mare, but was unfazed by everything.

Note how sunny it was here.
Sleepy expression, but she was paying attention, see?
We did 25 minutes again, stopping just as one of the boarders came leading a horse in from one of the paddocks: she had just received a warning on her phone, and the next round of storms was only 30 minutes away.

I rushed to untack Lily, pick her stall and leave her mush soaking so I could help bring horses in. That took all of 10 minutes. When I walked back out of the barn, the sky looked like this:

Really. 10 minutes after the photos of Lily.
Between 4 of us, we brought all of the horses in in record time, and I said my good-byes just as it started to rain. I ran to the car and drove home as fast as humanly possible with the speed cameras. 

I was stopped at a red light when I took this photo.
I had just pulled into our parking lot when my phone beeped: a tornado warning. (Wow technology...I feel like Charles and I have officially made it to the 21st century...we didn't have this on our phones before.) Going up the stairs to our apartment, a group of people were coming down: our neighbors. No one was sure what to do, but they had all received alerts on their phones and were going to hide out in the mail room on the bottom floor. I ran up the stairs to get Charles. 

In the time it took him to get dressed and for us to wrangle the cats so we could stow them away in the bathroom (both were hiding under the futon this time, which tells you that this time the storm was for realz), the worst of the wind and rain had already blown over us. These storms moved incredibly fast. We never made it downstairs - by then, what was the point? Charles agreed that this little practice run had been an epic fail and that next time we need to be quicker when we get tornado warnings like that. 

Rain pounding against the sliding door, after the worst of the storm had passed.
Florida was much more likely to get hit by tornadoes, and if you Google tornado maps, you can see for yourself. But no one ever took the warning seriously: it wasn't like you could do anything, either. No one had basements (houses with basements would sink in the sand) and there were no real storm shelters. So you just crossed your fingers and prayed, or just ignored the warnings entirely. 

They take tornado warning seriously around here.

It doesn't help that I've been having random tornado dreams since before the big Oklahoma storms that were so devastating. I don't normally dream about tornadoes. After that giant 2-mile wide tornado flattened Moore, OK on May 20, I wondered if my dreams had been a premonition.

The weather cleared up afterwards, enough so that a couple hours later Charles and I went for a run. 


  1. When you visit you'll have to bring the fancypants bridle and see if Q responds to it. Yeah...just bring all your tack, haha.

    Counted walk is really cool... Hmmmmmm.

    1. Fo sho! And you can certainly try the counted walk with Q. It's HARD; I tended to get impatient with the exercise too in the beginning. Like horse, like owner...hahaha...

  2. I learned a lot from this entry.

    1. Awesome. :) Classical dressage is da bomb; I still find it odd that it is in danger of being completely forgotten.